Monday, February 20, 2012

Large Tasting of Southern Rhones, 2009 and 2010

The tasting, sponsored by Ann Arbor Tasters' Guild, was billed as "Gold Dust Twins: Southern Rhone Wines from 2009 and 2010." And although the tasting confirmed for me that these two vintages are indeed very good, some of my favorite wines were from other vintages.

As should be expected, a few Cotes du Rhone Villages wines from 2005 and 2007 were showing very well as a result of some extra time in the bottle. I was particularly impressed by the 2005 Domaine Sainte Anne CDR Villages Saint Gervais. It has long been one of my favorite wines, and this 2005 was revealing the same deep, spicy Mourvedre aromas and flavors that I've been finding recently in bottles from 1998, 1999 and 2000. I ordinarily prefer this wine with at least 10 to 12 years of bottle age, but there is no question in my mind that this 2005 is ready to go. Right beside the Domaine Sainte Anne was a wine I hadn't had before, the 2005 CDR Villages Seguret from Domaine du Mouchon. This too was showing a very pleasing array of aromas and flavors.

2007 has never impressed me as much as it has other lovers of Southern Rhone. I generally findwines from this vintage a bit ripe and one dimensional. Not so for the 2007 Valreas CDR Villages of Domaine du Val des Rois. Ripe yes but also a lot of subtlty and a good dash of acid. Also very good were the 2007 Cotes du Rhone wines from E. Guigal and Chateau des Tours. It seems Guigal always makes a very good Cotes du Rhone, but this 2007 ranks with some of the best I've had (such as the 1983). Like the Val des Rois, ripe in the best way with no flabbiness. At more than $20 a bottle, Chateau des Tours has never been on my radar. I know it's a great estate for Chateauneuf (Chateau Rayas), but the CDR has never tempted me to shell out that kind of money. While the 2007 I tasted was very good, with ripe, burnished tones, it was by no means the best CDR on the table.

One wine that I am willing to go outside my budget to buy on a fairly regular basis is the Cairanne of Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin. The Reserve des Seigneurs usually sells for more than $20 a bottle, but I found the 2008 for less than $15 last summer and bought enthusiastically. When I opened my first bottle last summer, though, I was disappointed; the wine seemed disjointed and a bit stingy. Four or five months later, this Cairanne has had time to pull itself together; and I'm very pleased. Like the 2005 Saint Gervais, it needs to go on my "drink sooner" list.

The other 2008 that was showing well was no surprise: Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du Pape. Now $60 to $100 a bottle (depending on the vintage) Pegau is no longer on my radar, but it was interesting to get a sip of even an off vintage. It seemed funkier than usual to me and had some brett-like smells. Funk is part of the Pegau personality, though, and even a sip was absolutely gorgeous as it passed down the throat. Luscious flavors even at this early age. The 2009 Grand Tinel Chateauneuf could use a bit more of the funkiness that it showed in older vintages (such as 1990 and 1993), as far as I'm concerned. Or maybe it's just a little restrained in youth. The 2004 Mont Redon Chateauneuf was developing nice aromas and flavors.

Now to the Gold Dust Twins: 2009 and 2010. There were frankly few, if any, disappointments. Tasted against their peers, the Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages confirmed what I already believed. The deep raspberries, blueberries and cream aromas and the finely wrought texture stand out in a crowd. Other old favorites that continued to impress were offerings from Domaine du Vieux Chene: Cuvee de la Dame Vieille, Cuvee Beatrice and Cuvee le la Haie aux Grives. Considering the price ($9.99), Cuvee de la Dame Vieille was particularly vigorous and impressive, perhaps in part because it's a 2010. (In this case, youth is a virtue.) A discovery, for me, was the 2010 Domaine de la Tourade Cotes do Rhone. Traditionally made but with style and elegance. This goes on my Southern Rhone buying list. 2010 d'Andezon was also impressive, although it's made in a more modern style that usually turns me away.

Domaine la Monardiere's Vacqueyras Les Calades impressed me a lot, but after tasting through the other Vacqueyras wines, I decided that the Domaine du Grand Prieur met my expectations for the appellation--for $5 a bottle less. I've always liked the Font-Sane Gigondas, and still do, but at this tasting I preferred the 2009 Les Mas de Colline Gigondas. Ahh, the Font-Sane was from 2008, a lesser vintage. The tasting included only one Rasteau: Domaine Grand Nicolet. I liked it, perhaps because the black mineral elements of Rasteau are a bit understated compared to other Rasteaus I've had. Another winner for me was the 2009 Les Queyrades Lirac. At $16 a bottle, I thought it blew away the wine beside it: Domaine de la Mordoree's La Reine des Bois. Mordoree is a fine estate, and La Reine des Bois is its top-of-the-line label--old vines and new oak treatment. But the styling is just too international for my taste. And so is the $40 price tag. I'd be happier with four bottles of Vieux Chene's Cuvee de la Dame Vieille.

Sorry I couldn't give tasting notes, but, with 73 wines on the table, there just wasn't time or space. I noticed Tasters Guild Director/Village Corner owner Dick Scheer dictating his detailed notes into a tape recorder, and I'm looking forward to reading them. They'll undoubtedly appear soon on the VC web site:

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